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February 2024

Caring for a Senior Dog: Top Care Tips


Dogs as young as 7 can be considered senior – which means they have different care requirements than their younger counterparts. Have you adjusted your dog’s care routine to accommodate these needs? By following these tips, you can ensure that your senior dog gets the most out of their later years of life.

Understanding Senior Dogs

As dogs age, their needs change – and in many instances their care routine needs to change slightly to ensure they’re going to get the best out of their golden years. Dogs as young as 7 (for giant breeds) go through this transition, whereas large dogs are considered senior between 8-10 (depending on the breed), and small dogs are considered senior when they’re over the age of 10. In this guide, we’ll break down the common health concerns you should watch out for as your dog ages and suggest slight changes to your dog’s care routine to ensure their new needs are catered for.

Nutrition & Diet For Senior Dogs

Dogs’ nutritional requirements change slightly in their twilight years. Making the following adjustments to their diet will help them maintain a healthy weight without sacrificing their energy levels.

  • Reduce calories: Dogs become less active as they get older – which means they require fewer calories. Reduce their portion sizes or switch to specially formulated senior dog food.
  • Maintain protein: Ensure you’re feeding your dog a protein-rich diet so they can maintain their muscle mass and can still get sufficient energy from their reduced food intake. Opt for easy-to-digest, lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, kangaroo, or fish. Lean proteins are gentler on their stomach as well, which is an added bonus.
  • Introduce joint supplements: Senior dogs may develop mobility or joint issues. To circumvent this, introduce supplements into their diet.
  • Keep them hydrated: hydration is always important – but even more so for senior dogs. Consider incorporating wet dog food into their diet, add water to their meals, or invest in a pet fountain to encourage more drinking.

Exercise and Mobility Tips for Senior Dogs

Maintaining your senior dog's mobility is essential for their wellbeing. However, as dog’s age, their exercise requirements change. Follow these care tips and adjustments to ensure your dog is getting the exercise they need without compromising their overall health.

  • Easy Does It: Rather than the rapid-pace, high intensity exercise and play sessions required to keep younger dogs energy levels in check, senior dogs are better off with low-impact exercise and frequent short walks rather than sporadic long ones. The goal here is to keep them mobile, rather than tire them out.
  • Winding Down: Consider the activities you’re engaging your older dog in – could changes be made to keep pressure off their joints? Encourage swimming rather than running, and if playing fetch or other high-speed games opt for soft surfaces like grass or beach rather than asphalt. Also be mindful that sharp, jaunty movements are hard on joints so if you’re dog has arthritis or other mobility issues, fetch may not be the best game for them.
  • Comfort is Key: Small changes can make your home more senior-dog friendly. If you have slippery floor surfaces like wood or tiles, consider getting grippy socks for older dogs. Orthopaedic beds are also a good choice as they provide additional support. Ramps and stairs can also be introduced to help your dog access higher surfaces like sofas and beds, which reduce the risk of strain or injury from jumping.
  • Too Hot to Handle: Senior dogs are more sensitive to extreme temperatures. Be mindful of preventing Avoid exercising them strenuously when temperatures reach 22 degrees or higher – and in peak summer you’re better off exercising them at dawn or dusk when temperatures are milder.
  • Stop, Look and Listen: Pay attention to your dog's cues. If they seem tired, in pain, or reluctant to exercise, respect their limits and adjust your routine accordingly.
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Mental Stimulation & Brain Games For Senior Dogs

Mental stimulation is crucial for senior dogs to keep their minds sharp and spirits high. It’s also a great way to expend energy for pets that can’t engage in strenuous physical activity.


  • Puzzle Toys: Provide puzzle toys to challenge their problem-solving skills and keep them engaged.
  • Training Sessions: Despite the adage, you can teach an old dog new tricks! Make sure you keep training sessions short, with frequent positive reinforcement.

Mind Games

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Common Health Concerns For Senior Dogs

As our dogs age, they become more susceptible to various health issues. While not cause for alarm, it’s a good idea to monitor them and seek vet care if you notice any symptoms of below conditions. This way, treatment can be introduced to manage the condition and keep your dog safe and comfortable.

Arthritis and Joint Pain

Arthritis is a prevalent issue in senior dogs. It can cause stiffness, discomfort, and reduced mobility. Signs to watch for include limping, difficulty getting up after rest periods, or reluctance to exercise. Consult your vet for treatments and pain management options.

Periodontal Disease and Dental Decay

Dental issues can be painful, and they can even impact your dog's overall health. Because dental conditions are often degenerative, dogs are more prone to dental problems (like gum disease and tooth decay) as they age. Regular dental check-ups are essential (our vet nurses provide them for free!) and day-to-day dental hygiene should be practiced.

Pearly Whites

Learn more about how to clean your dog's teeth!

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Vision and Hearing Loss

Just like humans, a dog’s eyesight and hearing can deteriorate as they age. Be attentive to signs of vision impairment (like cloudy or irritated eyes, bumping into objects or exhibiting anxiety or nervousness in new places) and hearing loss (such as unresponsiveness to sounds). Your vet can advise on managing these issues.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is similar to dementia in humans. Symptoms include disorientation, confusion, and changes in behavior. You can help by providing mental stimulation and a predictable routine.

Weight Management

Senior dogs are more prone to weight gain due to reduced activity and a slower metabolism. Obesity can worsen joint issues and lead to other health problems. Ensure your dog receives an age-appropriate diet and regular exercise.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is another concern for older dogs. Signs may include coughing, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your vet for diagnosis and treatment options.

Kidney and Liver Disease

As dogs age, their kidney and liver function may decline. Watch out for increased thirst, frequent urination, or changes in appetite.


Cancer is more common in older dogs. Keep an eye out for lumps, sores that won't heal, or changes in behavior. Early detection and treatment are crucial to manage cancer.


Loss of bladder control is a concern for some senior dogs. If your dog starts having accidents indoors, consult your vet to rule out underlying medical issues and discuss management options.

Respiratory Issues

Senior dogs may develop respiratory problems like chronic bronchitis or collapsing trachea. If your dog exhibits coughing or breathing difficulties, consult your vet for guidance.

FAQs For Senior Dog Care

What's the ideal diet for a senior dog?A well-balanced diet with high-quality protein and reduced fat, along with supplements, is ideal for senior dogs. Consult your vet for specific recommendations.

How often should I exercise my senior dog?

Gentle, low-impact exercises should be undertaken regularly. Short daily walks are best and consider encouraging swimming to help maintain their mobility.

Why is dental care important for senior dogs?

Dental care is crucial to prevent dental issues, which can impact their overall health.

How can I keep my senior dog mentally stimulated?

Provide puzzle toys and engage in short training sessions to keep their minds active.

Why are regular vet visits important for senior dogs?

Regular vet visits are essential to catch and address health issues early, ensuring a longer and healthier life for your senior dog.